Winston-Salem man shocked by $4,800 water bill

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- When Willie Rodriguez-Wolfram got his water bill in December, he thought he was going to have to cancel Christmas.

“For 15 years we have paid $60 every two months," he said.

When the City of Winston-Salem sent him a letter saying he should expect his water bill to be higher than usual, he brushed it off.

“I thought, ‘Man, the city’s really good to send us a letter, we’re probably gonna spend an extra maybe $20, $30,'" Rodriguez-Wolfram said.

But, unbeknownst to him, a 70-year-old pipe in the front yard of his Ardmore home had failed, leaking a large amount of water for several days.

“When we got the bill for $4,800, it was like, ‘OK, we have a problem, little problem, little problem,'" he said.

Rodriguez-Wolfram immediately contacted both the city and a local business to fix the pipe.

“That was $4,000 to get all of that taken care of," he said, of the pipe.

The city then told Rodriguez-Wolfram to let the bill cycle, and when the new one came it should be the correct amount.

“Then we got another bill for $6,800," he said.

Luckily, city utilities were able to make some adjustments to the bill which were in line with the department's policies and procedures.

“The city has worked with us and they have dropped that by half, so it’s down to $600 now," Rodriguez-Wolfram said.

The leak could have been noticed earlier, but the city only reads the meters every 60 days.

Today, they're adjusting their approach. On Friday, they rolled out a new video which details where to look for potential leaks, as well as how to read the meters.

“What the dials indicate and what they mean and then usual sources of a leak," said Damon Duquenne, of Winston-Salem utilities.

The city also plans to put in "smart meters" throughout the city, which will notify the city and residents almost immediately should their water usage drastically increase.

“I think it’s great that they’re doing something, because I would hate for anybody else to have to go through what we’ve gone through," Rodriguez-Wolfram said.

The City of Winston-Salem says if you get an abnormally high bill, call them immediately.

“Don’t just assume that if you had a high bill that you should pay it," Duquenne said. "Every situation is different.”